Learning Theories



Watch overview videoOverview of Social Development Theory (2:37)


Social Development Theory explains that socialization directly affects the process of learning by an individual. By socializing with someone who has more knowledge of the topic to be learned, i.e.: peers or an adult, we transfer knowledge and start the learning process.

There are three concepts of Social Development:

  1. Vygotsky states that cultural development develops first on the social level called interpsychological, and secondly on the individual or personal level called intrapsychological.
  2. The More Knowledgeable Other (MKO) is a person with a higher level of understanding of the topic than the learner. This person can be a peer who knows more in a given subject than the learner. This person can also be a teacher or a parent.
  3. The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is the delta between how much is known and what is unknown by the learner. When a learner completes a task with their MKO and then completes the same task independently, this is where learning takes place.

Guidelines for Use

Guideline 1 – Observation

When creating a Web-based learning tool, it is important for the learner to observe the instruction or task by someone with more knowledge of the subject (MKO). For example, in teaching a class on how to create a slide show, it is important for a teacher or the MKO to first expose the learner to how they would create it, and provide explanation on how.

Guideline 2 – Application

Once the learner observes the MKO, the learner should be able to apply the learned knowledge by themselves. For example, once the learner observes the teacher create a slide show, the learner will then become more comfortable and knowledgeable in creating their own, independent of the MKO.

Good Examples of Use

Example 1 – YouTube

Learners have the opportunity to view the MKO over a video. YouTube can be closed caption as well and has the ability to reach more learning types.

Example 2 – Adobe Connect

Learners have the opportunity to interact and participate with their peers and the MKO.  Learners can observe their peers or the MKO, discuss, and then apply their understanding.

Helpful Resources

Resource 1 – Social Learning Theory & Web Based Learning Environment

This paper examines the how social learning can be used in design, development and execution of Web-based learning environments (WBLEs).

Resource 2 – Social Development in Human Growth and Development

This video reviews the three major developmental theories.

Resource 3 – A Theoretical Analysis of Social Interactions in Computer-Based Learning Environments: Evidence for Reciprocal Understandings

The Journal of Educational Computing Research analyzes the social interactions between computer-based learning environments.


Hill, J, Song, L. & West, R. (2009) Social Learning Theory and Web- Based Learning Environments: A Review of Research and Discussion of Implications. American Journal of Distance Education, 23(2), 88-103, DOI: 10.1080/08923640902857713

Järvelä, S., Bonk, C. J., Lehtinen, E., & Lehti, S. (1999). A Theoretical Analysis of Social Interactions in Computer-Based Learning Environments: Evidence for Reciprocal Understandings. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 21(3), 363–388. https://doi.org/10.2190/1JB6-FC8W-YEFW-NT9D


Submitted by:  Jessica Hunter

Contact info:  jessica.hunter1@uoit.net


Jessica Hunter is a post-secondary instructor; she has a passion for app development and universal design for learning (UDL). She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. at Ontario Tech with an anticipated graduation date of 2021. She has a strong passion for helping students with accessibility needs. She hopes to write policy for the Ministry of Education to help support students access all of the tools they need to succeed. She is an out-of-the-box thinker.



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E-Learning Essentials 2020 Copyright © 2020 by Power Learning Solutions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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